Pump Boys and Dinettes

Directed Shawn Stengel

At Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre
At Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre

Music Direction by Malcolm Ruhl

Choreography by Tammy Mader

At Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre

Toe-tapping ode to road dinners a hit!

Drury Lane Oakbrook Theartre offers a totally entertaining musical tribute to life along the open road with their charming, hi-octane revue, Pump Boys and Dinettes. Christopher Ash’s amazingly detailed set give us the feel of a road dinner/gas station circa 1950’s.

Pump Boys and Dinettes
Pump Boys and Dinettes

After long runs in NYC starting in 1980 and six years in Chicago, Pump Boys seems fresh and energetic. Pump Boys and Dinettes is a fun revue using the motif of a diner along US 57 somewhere in the mid South between Frog Level and Smyrna. Director Shawn Stengel has produced a fast paced, marvelous staged tune fest that, under MalcolmRuhl expert musical direction, rocks us to our core!

Pump Boys
Pump Boys

Pump Boys and Dinettes is part rock ‘n roll show, part audience participation that reminds one of the old Hee Haw TV show or a night at the Grand Ole Opry. That’s good company.

Dinettes
Dinettes

This highly entertaining musical treat is light on story, small vignettes designed to introduce the next song, but long on Southern, small town music. Featuring a nice blend of country, folk, old-time rock ‘n roll, blue grass, Cajun, cowboy and western, blues with gospel thrown in, Pump Boys and Dinettes easily grabs us and holds on until we’re filled with enough toe-tapping tunes to satisfy. This show is light, pure escapism designed to simply relieve us form our stress-filled lives for a couple of hours.

With audience participation (a raffle), Pump Boys plays like a trip to Mayberry. Musically, this show contains a pleasing diverse set of country-folk-rock songs deftly produced by Alan Bukowiecki, Brian Burke, Jesse Kazemek and Shaun Whitley with pots & pans percussion by Tammy Mader and Liza Jaine. Featuring excellent voices from Shaun Whitley, Alan Bukowiecki, the show features excellent harmonies and fine acoustic sounds with lots of funny stuff and a few tender emotional moments. Among the terrific bouncy songs was the rocking song “Drinkin’ Shoes,” a country-rock song with tap dancing! This number was a hoot!

The flavor, attitudes and personas of small town, rural Southern America was aptly depicted in this cute show. From haunting ballads to odes to grandma to a rocking number “Tips” where the two waitresses converge on the audience to solicit tips, Pump Boys thoroughly engages audiences. The marvelous song “Closing Time” is an ode to all honky-tonk joints everywhere. I particularly enjoyed the fine arrangements of the original songs written in the styles of 1950’s hits. The flavor of bluegrass, country and early rock music is captured here nicely. We like the folks at the diner and we enjoy our pit stop. Dinettes is fun.

Recommended

Tom Williams

At Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, IL, 630-530-0111, tickets $29 -$33 – $38, Wednesdays at 1:30 pm, Thursdays at 1;30 & 8 pm, Fridays at 8:30pm, Saturdays at 5 & 8:30 pm, Sundays at 2 & 6pm, running time is 1 hour, 55 minutes with intermission, through August 2, 2009

Review by Beverly Friend

PUMP BOYS AND DINETTES

“Fill ‘er up” at Drury Lane revival

More than 20 years ago, when Pump Boys and Dinettes opened at the Apollo Theatre, we got more than we bargained for.  In addition to enjoying the sheer joy of the performance, the play also astounded our houseguest, a professor visiting from China. At that time, coming from a culture which was scant on roads, let alone highways, and which had virtually no private car ownership, the entire concept of Route 57 traversing the country, flanked by filling stations and roadside diners, was new to him. What was so familiar to virtually all the audience, he found foreign, almost unintelligible.

As we explained the vocabulary and the action, we realized that the attendants operating the gas pumps and the waitresses ladling out home made pies and coffee (second cup on the house) are a uniquely country-western cultural icon, captured here in a vivid snapshot. The play may be set in the 1950’s but it will always resonate with our car-loving, highway-zooming American audiences.

This delightful musical review —most welcome in its latest incarnation at Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace —  serves up a neat slice of life as the six talented actors — – all capable musicians, singing, dancing, and  playing piano, guitar, accordion, harmonica, and percussion,  enact the a daily regimen that punctuates their lives. In 20 catchy songs, they define their jobs, play hooky by going fishing (for Catfish), reminisce about romances, castigate each other for unfaithfulness, praise the joys of sisterhood, and plan a vacation to Florida where the boys hope that a “farmer tan” (arms, neck and face) will be sure to attract the opposite sex.

L.M. (Alan Bukowiecki) and Jim (Shaun Whitley) own the Gas Station and employ Eddie  (Brian Burke) and Jackson (Jesse Kazemek).  Two feisty sisters, Prudie (Liza Jaine) and Rhetta Cupp ( Tammy Mader), run the Double Cupp Diner.  All are so involved that when the story line focuses on a particular character, the others provide background instrumentation and toe-tapping rhythm. Prudie provides an especially effective and threatening dramatic accompaniment by banging on a fry pan with a rolling pin when her sister Rhetta tells her errant beaux Jim to “Be Good or Be Gone”

The flirtatious girls also enjoyed interaction with the audience, scampering down the aisles as they extolled the virtues of “Tips” and garner a few coins and dollars along the way. Had they dallied longer, they might have gotten far more from this enthusiastic audience when they rose from their seats to pay additional tribute with a standing ovation.

It is impossible not to enjoy this sprightly musical review.

Recommended

Beverly Friend